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Extradition of Kurdish activist causes unrest

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Kurds in Cyprus are uneasy with a Larnaca court decision to extradite Kenan Ayaz, a 49-year-old Kurdish political activist arrested on March 15 on accusations of international terrorism.

The Larnaca District Court on Wednesday approved Ayaz’s extradition requested by Germany on charges of international terrorism, as dozens of Kurds were at the court to protest the decision.

Ayaz’s supporters have been demonstrating against his arrest, arguing that his extradition to Germany paves the way for further extradition to Turkey.

Delivering the court’s verdict, Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said: “No evidence presented before the court pointed to a further extradition of Ayaz to Turkey from Germany.”

Papathanasiou also added that, given the concerns, the Larnaca court requested Germany not send the suspect to Turkey.

In the decision, the Larnaca court states that the European arrest warrant issued by the German prosecuting authorities is “fully valid”.

Ayaz is wanted by the German authorities for his alleged involvement in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is labelled as a terrorist organisation by the EU and NATO.

In his testimony, Ayaz denied any involvement in the organisation.

Ayaz’s defence team had argued that the situation between the PKK and Turkey constitutes an “armed conflict” and cannot be considered a case of terrorism.

He has lived in Cyprus for 10 years as a political refugee, known for participating in the Kurdish struggle for independence.

He was arrested in Turkey in 1993 at the age of 17 and was handed an 11-year prison sentence, while in 2009, he was forced to flee to Europe, being part of a list of Kurdish politicians whom the Turkish authorities described as “terrorists”.

Political asylum

Since 2011 he has been residing in Cyprus, where he was granted political asylum.

Despite the court’s assurances, the risk of his subsequent extradition to Turkey and his humiliating treatment by the Turkish regime is very real, argue members of the Kurdish cultural organisation “Theophilos”.

The organisation has staged demonstrations outside the Justice Ministry, holding placards reading “Kenan is not a terrorist”, “Cyprus stop deporting Kurds”, and “Freedom to Kenan Ayaz”.

It also held a protest outside the Supreme Court building on Thursday.

According to the organisation, since 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given Germany a list of almost 4,000 names his administration considers Kurdish terrorists.

The main opposition party AKEL extended its solidarity to Ayaz in a message last month.

AKEL had also called on the government to prevent Ayaz from being sent to Turkey.

“Behind these persecutions of thousands of Kurdish activists by European states are the demands of the Turkish state, which wants to suppress the Kurdish movement.

“Turkey is, of course, exploiting the fact that both the EU and NATO include the Kurdish Workers’ Party on their lists of “terrorist organisations”, said AKEL.

AKEL has long supported the demand to remove the PKK from EU and NATO terror lists.